City officials could use about $5.45 million in federal grant money expected through a Texas General Land Office program to finish an evacuation route, to begin two other flood control projects and to combine two lift stations, among other drainage projects.
Officials in Friendswood, which is in Galveston and Harris counties, are soliciting public input about projects they might fund with Community Development Block Grant money they believe the city is eligible for through the Houston-Galveston Area Council — about $2.69 million for infrastructure projects and another $2.76 million to buy out flood-damaged houses.
Because Friendswood is in two counties, officials are awaiting information about Hurricane Harvey recovery funding from two different groups — Harris County and the Houston-Galveston Area Council, officials said.
City officials in October began soliciting public input about projects to pursue with about $4.4 million they anticipate Harris County will give them to use on that side of the city.
Hurricane Harvey in August 2017 dropped more than 50 inches of rain on some parts of Harris and Galveston counties, overwhelming drainage systems and leaving many residents with flooded homes. After the storm, The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, via the Texas General Land Office, gave Harris County a little less than $1.2 billion in community development block grants to allocate for infrastructure improvements, officials said.
Based on the county’s plan to distribute the aid, Friendswood is eligible to receive about $4.4 million, but can only use it on improvements on the Harris County side of town, officials said.
While incumbent Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, who successfully pursued the direct allocation from federal authorities, was unseated by 27-year-old Lina Hidalgo in the November election, that shouldn’t change Friendswood’s funding situation, city officials said.
“To date, the city’s efforts have not been affected by the coming transition in the office of Harris County judge,” City Manager Morad Kabiri said.
Grant funding for the Galveston County side of town will flow through the Texas General Land Office, which has selected the Houston-Galveston Area Council as its distributor of funding, city officials said.
While city officials estimate they are eligible for about $5.45 million for the Galveston County part of town, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will receive that full amount, Councilman Steve Rockey said.
“Just because they earmark a certain city or area for funding, you still have to meet the rules,” Rockey said. “They aren’t going to say here’s $2.8 million, go spend it wisely.”
Projects the city could pursue with the funding include flood control projects in the Deepwood Drive and Polly Ranch areas, a $1.6 million project to combine lift stations 1 and 17, and the city’s 20 percent share of a $2.8 million project to extend Friendswood Lakes Boulevard from FM 528 to FM 2351 to serve as an evacuation route, among other projects, officials said.
A potential stumbling block to securing that funding is that the U.S. Department of Houston and Urban Development requires 70 percent of disaster aid be used on projects in areas where 51 percent or more of the population earns less than the median income, about $56,000 per year for a family of four in Friendswood, Rockey said.
Friendswood has no majority low- to moderate-income areas, Rockey said.
About 15 percent of Friendswood’s 40,500 residents — 6,000 or so people — reside in Harris County in neighborhoods generally west of Dixie Farm Road, according to the city.